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Pitchfork in the Road

By chicago_chris in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 12, 2004 6:29PM

2004_07_music_pitchfork.bmp If you haven't seen the Reader this week, there's an interesting cover story about a local college student, University of Chicago’s Loren Wilson, and his creation of a database that analyzes that Internet bastion of indie-rock coolness, Pitchfork. A Chicago-based website, Pitchfork is something of a guilty pleasure for Chicagoist. The site's staffers are pretentious, high-brow barometers of underground hype – the Rolling Stone of the indie world. (And they're just as easy to mock: Check out Popdork, indie label Sub Pop's hilarious parody of Pitchfork.) But their ability to write snarky reviews and expose readers to great unheard bands – their tireless cheerleading helped The Wrens, The Unicorns, and Broken Social Scene all achieve semi-fame over the past year – definitely appeals to our sensibilities.

Wilson's project, entitled Pitchformula, searches the archives of the site, examining the criteria for what makes a great record according to these undersexed, elitist male hipsters. The results, as with Princeton student Katherine Milkman's recent similar critical survey – hers of The New Yorker's fiction pieces – are unsurprising. Just like how The New Yorker leans toward stories by and about white, upper-middle class, Northeastern male liberals (duh), the boys club of Pitchfork has a penchant for distorted, melancholic, anti-corporate, guitar-heavy, well-written music (double duh). Wilson has even put his findings into practice by writing a couple of tunes. (Which, shockingly, aren't terrible. He's in what The Onion would sardonically label a "promising local band" – Starlister.)

Chicagoist, with our own Rob Gordon-esque obsessions with music (and film and book...) reviews, thinks all this is pretty fascinating, if undeniably nerdy, stuff. Wilson writes on his site, "This project combines a computer science background and a songwriting hobby with an unhealthy obsession for popular music reviews." We think unhealthy is the key word there.